Prostate Cancer Awareness
The prostate is a walnut-sized organ located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum in men. It produces fluid that makes up a part of semen. The prostate gland surrounds the urethra (the tube that carries urine and semen through the penis and out of the body).
Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among American men. Most prostate cancers grow slowly, and don’t cause any health problems in men who have them. Learn about prostate cancer and talk to your doctor before you decide to get tested or treated.
Men can have different symptoms for prostate cancer. Some men do not have symptoms at all. Some symptoms of prostate cancer are difficulty starting urination, frequent urination (especially at night), weak or interrupted flow of urine, and blood in the urine or semen.
There is no way to know for sure if you will get prostate cancer. Men have a greater chance of getting prostate cancer if they are 50 years old or older, are African-American, or have a father, brother, or son who has had prostate cancer. African-American men with prostate cancer are more likely to die from the disease than white men with prostate cancer.
Two tests are commonly used to screen for prostate cancer—
- Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test: PSA is a substance made by the prostate. The PSA test measures the level of PSA in the blood, which may be higher in men who have prostate cancer. However, other conditions such as benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH, an enlarged but noncancerous prostate), prostate infections, and certain medical procedures also may increase PSA levels.
- Digital rectal exam (DRE): A doctor, nurse, or other health care professional places a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the size, shape, and hardness of the prostate gland.
Should You Get Screened?
Not all medical experts agree that screening for prostate cancer will save lives. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends against PSA-based screening for men who do not have symptoms. The potential benefit of prostate cancer screening is finding cancer early, which may make treatment work better. Potential risks include—
- False negative test results (the test says you do not have cancer when you do).
- False positive test results (the test says you have cancer when you do not).
- Follow-up tests such as a biopsy to diagnose cancer.
- Treatment of prostate cancers that may never affect your health.
- Mild to serious side effects from treatment of prostate cancer.
Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of prostate cancer screening before getting tested.
- Prostate Cancer Screening (National Cancer Institute)
- Understanding Prostate Changes: A Health Guide for Men (National Cancer Institute)
- Screening for Prostate Cancer fact sheet [PDF-466KB] (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force)
Screening for Prostate Cancer [PDF-1MB] provides an overview of screening tests and treatment options.
Treating Localized Prostate Cancer: A Review of the Research for Adults [PDF-3.7MB] explains treatment options and common side effects.
This health tip sheet [PDF-163KB] explains prostate cancer screening and provides a list of questions to ask your doctor.